“I will rule over dis land and I shall call it… DIS LAND!”
I looked up from the book I was reading, watching Kaylee messing around in the sandbox. Uh-huh, I thought, setting the book down and going over. I stood over her, arms folded, waiting for her to notice.
“We will call it, your grave!” she exclaimed, shaking a toy around. “AAHHH! Curse your sudden but… inedidible be… be…”
“Betrayal?” I offered.
She looked up, going several shades paler. “Mommy! I was, um, um, um, I was not quoting dat show.”
“Yes you were,” I said, my lips twitching. “You were definitely quoting that show. And what did Mommy and Daddy say about that show?”
She suddenly looked very guilty and began toeing the sand. “Dat it’s not okay for us ta watch till we are, ummmmm, fourteen.”
“Punish her, punish her!” Serenity cried out from where she was pushing Simon on the swing. “She broke the rules! She should go into time out!”
“Yeah!” Simon echoed. “Punith her!”
“Noooo!” Kaylee cried. “No, Mommy, I’m sorry! It was, ummmm, an accee-dent. I only saw, ummm, a little bit.” She held up her thumb and forefinger, holding them close together. “Only a leeeeetle bit. Dat bit. And, ummmm, dat’s all.” She put her hands behind her back, putting on the cutest most innocent face she could muster.
I grinned and picked her up, depositing her on the grass by the sandbox. “Go sit in that chair for ten minutes,” I said and she stomped off, grumbling. “And if I ever find out you’ve seen more of that show before you’re a teen, you’ll be in MUCH more trouble, missy!”
The house was crazy now that the kids were getting older. I rather hoped things would calm down a bit with three kids in school but nope, I was even busier. Driving them everywhere, especially with Duncan in scouts and Serenity wanting to start ballet…
I shielded my eyes to survey the yard, making sure everyone was ok. Serenity was pushing Simon on the swings, River was sitting on the ground playing with a doll, and the baby was trying to shove brightly colored blocks into matching holes. Duncan and Hal were out doing some grocery shopping.
Duncan was close to twelve, and then in a year he’d be a teenager. Serenity, ten, and Kaylee, seven. The twins had just turned five… starting preschool soon. And little Shepherd Malcolm (okay, so how could we resist?) was two. Six kids. Six kids. But we loved every minute of it.
“Meme,” Mal said, turning his little face up to me. “Nuuu!” He was trying to bang a square block into a circular hole. “Nuuu.”
I sat down in front of him and helped him get the blocks into the right spot. He giggled happily, clapping his hands and beaming at me. “I help’m, Mama,” River said, trotting over to where I sat. “Lemme.”
I patted her head and got back up, feeling rather achy and tired as I did so. Being a parent really took it out of you… Except it was completely worth it. I returned to my seat, next to where Kaylee was pouting, and I began reading again. After the ten minutes were up, I let her go play in the sandbox again.
“We’re home!” I heard Hal call not long after that. Everyone went running except for Mal who tried toddling but kept tripping so I picked him up and brought him into the house.
“Hey sweetie,” I said, smiling at Hal who grinned back. “How was shopping?”
His grin faded and he narrowed his eyes. “I am never taking any kid with me ever again,” he muttered into my ear.
I leaned a bit so I could look at Duncan. He looked pretty hyped up. “Mommommomihadfourchocolotbarsandandandabottleofpop!” He bounced up and down and I rolled my eyes back at Hal.
“What?” He spread his hands out. “All he was doing was complaining and trudging. I had to do something.”
“So you filled him full of sugar!” I laughed. “Great, now he’ll never get to sleep tonight. Hey, kiddo, why don’t you put some of that energy to use?”
Duncan bounced some more then grabbed the jug of milk, trying to bounce over to the fridge (and failing completely). I handed Mal over to Hal and then began putting the groceries away, letting my husband relax. Duncan and Kaylee helped me which made it go much quicker, until they got bored and went into the dining room to gossip.
I was just putting the last item away in the fridge when I felt something strange. A little tiny thing, at the back of my head. Something… strange. I looked around, trying to figure out what it was. Something bad. Something very bad. My babies? Were my kids okay? Was this that psychic sense some parents had?!
I looked into the dining room. Duncan and Kaylee. Fine.
I went to the living room and saw the twins watching TV, they were fine.
In the bathroom, Serenity was staring rather blankly in the mirror–also fine.
Hal? Mal? Where were they? “Do you know where Daddy went?” I asked the twins, trying not to sound panicked.
River looked up. “Yeah, dey in da nursee.”
I nodded, thanking her, and trying to head to the nursery in a calm manner though I felt wild with fear. There was something wrong. My husband, my baby–they–they–
“Hey sweetie,” Hal said, looking up from where he was playing with Mal. “Something wrong?”
I leaned in the doorway, head pounding. “No, everything’s fine,” I breathed out. Everything was fine. Except that feeling. But it’s nothing, I thought, turning to go downstairs to the living room. Just my imagination.
Except it wasn’t. All day long, that fear persisted and that night I had a nightmare. A dark figure, reaching out for me, laughing. Hurting me. Hurting my kids. Hurting Hal. Just laughing, and laughing and he wouldn’t stop laughing!
I woke up with a start, panting for air. I hadn’t had any nightmares for a long time. Not like this. Not with… not about…
No, it’s not him, I thought, tugging at my nightshirt. Why was he in my nightmare? NO! It wasn’t him, it couldn’t be him. It was years ago, he was long gone and he wasn’t in my nightmare, it was just some random nightmare, just… some… just nothing, it was nothing.
“Sebastian…?” Hal woke up, rolling over so he could peer sleepily at me. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“No… no ghost…” I tugged harder at my shirt. “Is it hot in here or is it just me?”
“Well… you are hot…” His hand slid onto my leg and he began cuddling up close to me. I twitched away. I hadn’t meant it as an invitation, though normally I wouldn’t mind. Just not now. Hal sat up, yawning. “All right, something is wrong.”
“Not in the mood…” I murmured.
Hal began snuggling close again. “Not because of that. You sound terrified.”
“I had a nightmare,” I finally said and he kissed my arm. “It’s nothing, it’s just bad dreams.” I slid down into bed next to him, partially clinging to him. “Just bad dreams.”
The ‘just bad dreams’ haunted me over the next few days. Sometimes the fear was very distant, other times the fear was right there. Sometimes I was practically immobilized by the fears. I’d be standing in the yard, watching the kids when suddenly I felt so sick and icy that I couldn’t move. It felt like someone was watching me.
I looked around, but there was nobody. Still, I brought the kids inside and popped in a movie for them. Then let them watch another movie and then waited impatiently for school to let out so Duncan, Serenity, and Kaylee would be home.
The twins and Mal thought it was terrific when they got to watch a third movie. I told the older kids they could when they got home but when Serenity asked to go to her friend’s house, I shook my head. “You can watch a movie or do something else inside, I’d rather you not go out and about today.”
“Did somethin’ happen?” she asked, tilting her head and looking at me quizzically. “Mommy, why are you so scared?”
“I’m not scared, pumpkin,” I said, smiling at her.
She folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. “Fine, don’t tell me the truth. I’ll go work on my homework.” She spun around and stomped off.
I just clutched my stomach because as she stomped off, all I could see was her biological father storming off. I can’t be thinking of him, why am I thinking…? I took in a deep breath then went into the living room, watching the movie with the kids.
Serenity grew rather grouchy over the next few days, insisting I was hiding something from her. I promised her that everything was okay and told her it was just bad dreams.
“Then why are you so scared?” she kept asking.
“I’m not scared, sweetie,” I promised her. But she just said I was lying, and then went to her room to sulk. I could not convince her and finally gave up on it. I wasn’t going to tell her everything. One day, I would tell her a bit about… him… but not now. When she and Duncan were older. Teenagers. Maybe when he was eighteen, and she was sixteen or seventeen. But not now.
That night Hal approached me, stroking my hair and telling me that Serenity was worried about me. “Honestly, I’m worried too,” he said quietly. “You’ve been like… like…”
“Like what?” I asked, biting my bottom lip.
Hal frowned. “A bit like you did when you first moved in here.” When I was silent, his eyes went huge. “Seb, darling, what are the nightmares you’ve been having? Sebastian?”
I pushed his hands away, wrinkling my brow. “I’ve been having nightmares about–about him, okay? It’s nothing!” I added quickly when he looked upset. “Just a nightmare, nothing to be worried about.”
“Except you’ve been freaking out!” Hal exclaimed. “Why didn’t you tell me when it happened? You just said a bad dream but it was about–” He stopped, glancing around. “Him,” he finally said.
“Douglas!” I half-yelped, half-gasped. Hal jumped and began looking around again, as if he were here. “I’m just saying his name,” I assured him. “And nothing happened. Nothing happened…” I, too, began looking around. Everything was fine. He didn’t pop out or anything. Everything was normal.
I felt my entire body relaxing, as if saying his name had broken some spell. “Just a name,” I said and then I kissed Hal. “I love you.”
“I love you–mmm!” He was stopped, as I kissed him again, and then I looked up into his eyes. He let out a breathy laugh. “Well, well, well.”
“Well, well, well indeed,” I replied with a grin. “Everyone’s asleep, except Duncan and he’s just playing some video games before bed…” I trailed my finger down his chest, and tried giving him my best come-hither look.
“Sebastian Danevbie, are you trying to seduce me?” he asked with a smirk.
“Why, yes. Yes I am.” I grabbed his arm and pulled him towards our bed, feeling much better.